237 – Numbers 25 – Righteous Judgement
Just a quick Numbers 25 review up to this point. King Balak tells Balaam to curse Israel. Yahweh doesn’t allow the curse and instead causes Balaam to prophesy four times. Balaam attempts to circumvent Yahweh’s blessing and bring about Israel’s downfall by teaching King Balak and the Midianites how to trip up the nation. Offer your women as prostitutes!
This encounter was so significant that Joshua, who replaced Moses, was still dealing with its effects.
17 Is the iniquity of Peor not enough for us, from which we are not cleansed till this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD,
18 but that you must turn away this day from following the LORD? And it shall be, if you rebel today against the LORD, that tomorrow He will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve shared the gospel with a non-believer only to be met with the objection, “how could a loving God…send anyone to hell?” Or a slightly modified version of the protest from the atheist, “if there is a loving God…why does he allow such evil in the world?”
Although the question in the above two forms is from the unbelieving, the Christian has also asked a slightly less harsh version. I’ve heard believers ask, “why does God allow such suffering in the world?”
Often the question from the unbeliever is used as an excuse to remain at arm’s length from Jesus, the question from the believer can be sincere. However, regardless of which form the question takes and which group it is coming from, it is wrong-headed and insulting to Yahweh God. Although you may not be aware of it, by asking the question you are actually accusing God of committing sin.
You may not realize it, but the one asking the question is actually judging God according to some human sense of right and wrong. As if God should act according to the questioner’s concept of morality. Just ask the Old Testament man Job how that worked out for him.
Granted, man is a moral agent (a being who is capable of acting with reference to right and wrong), but he does not define moral law – God does! God is not held to our standard of right and wrong. We are held accountable to God’s standard of right and wrong.
If we don’t get this fundamental truth fixed in our minds as we read Numbers 25, we will either accuse God in our thinking or dismiss the passage as an Old Testament passage and therefore not relevant to us today.
Let’s turn back to Numbers 25.
3 So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel.
4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the LORD, out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.”
You may still be asking, “how can it be that God’s instructions to Moses to kill the Baal worshippers is right?” Listen, Israel willing entered into a contract, a covenant relationship with Yahweh. The terms of the contract gives Yahweh the legal right to kill them, or more accurately have them killed.
We aren’t privy to it until verse 8, but the fierce anger of Yahweh, mentioned in verse four is referring to the plague that Yahweh sent among them.
The men begin to carry out Yahweh’s punishment instructions. The people were gathered at the door of the tabernacle (vs 6) weeping, presumably in repentance, when another shameless act of sin occurs.
Zimri proudly presents Cozbi, one of the Midianite prostitutes to the weeping congregation. Sinning at the entrance to the place of worship with no regard for the living God! Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson, takes up a spear, goes into Zimri’s tent, and runs the spear through both of them. He killed them in the very act of dishonoring Yahweh.
Ironically, Yahweh blesses Phinehas and the nation for killing this unholy duo.
11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal.
12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace;
13 and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’ ”
If you read the chapter carefully you will discover that Zimri was actually a prince of Israel and Cozbi was a princess of the Midianites.
As far as I can tell, Balak and the Midianites would have been safe if they just would have left Israel alone. But instead:
16 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
17 “Harass the Midianites, and attack them;
18 for they harassed you with their schemes by which they seduced you in the matter of Peor and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a leader of Midian, their sister, who was killed in the day of the plague because of Peor.”
Israel knew better.
29 ‘Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry, and the land become full of wickedness.
I can’t quote the whole Old Testament here. I hope you will take time to look up a few more references. Exodus 34:12–18, Deuteronomy 32:35–41, Hosea 9:8–13
Here’s a New Testament passage that should put all of this into perspective for us.
I Corinthians 10:17-22
17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
18 Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?
20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.
21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.
22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?
Reverence God? Yes. But the wise man has learned to fear God. Fearing God and being in a loving relationship with Him are not opposing ideas!
God is worthy of all praise, worship, and adoration!
All Scripture quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.